Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dressage pit stop

On Sunday, the resident dressage trainer at my barn held a dressage schooling show. It was cheap and literally in the backyard so I entered. Sam and I hadn't worked on dressage since I don't know when. I can't even remember the last time I sat in my dressage saddle, but it probably was like December.
What's with all the scratching out?!
I know our last dressage show was Sept 30 of last year. It was a 2-day event and I had a total of four tests. My very last test last year was Training Level 3 in which I scored a 63%.

Over the past two weeks and exclusively the last week, Sam and I worked on dressage. First I had to get used to my dressage saddle. Seats me differently, uses a totally different set of leg muscles for me, just not fun. I kept switching back to my jump saddle and riding in that to see if it helped. Up until the last day, I was still undecided about which saddle to test in. 

There was definitely work to be done regarding right turns, free walks and the evil stretchy trot. Sam doesn't stretch during tests, he likes to looky-looky in a neutral head position. Honestly, he's not working hard enough to really need a stretch in this test. We also were fighting with each other about putting him together more and I had a few frustrating days.

If I think about it, in hunters I mostly point him at jumps and let him do his job. I am rarely giving input (at this point) and trusting him completely. In dressage, I'm constantly knit-picking EVERY single stride whether it's about his poll position, bend, shoulder position, speed, impulsion, etc. I don't think he appreciates that. He grinds his bit almost every time we do dressage, esp regarding lateral work. He grinds when he doesn't like to do something - though he does it anyway.

So, I decided to ride in my dressage and to get a nicely paced ride with lovely shapes and light connection - so as not to promote any tug of war. I got a nice free walk (for us) with some nice tracking up and decent stretch (tho inconsistent). But I totally blew our stretchy trot circle. A quarter way in I realized it was completely flat on top and I tried to salvage the second half, but it was only marginally better. Sam didn't stretch at all and I sure didn't help worrying about the geometry of the circle.

As usual, I only can focus on our flaws after we ride. I knew we turned a little early for centerline and we weren't as straight as we usually are. Our transitions weren't as smooth as I had hoped, though we hit them at the right spots where as during the week we were always too early or too late. I was pretty breathless when we were done - my legs were shot too. We're not used to riding 4:33 minutes straight. Hunter rounds are usually 50sec-1:30min. No wonder under saddles kick my butt, it's like riding a dressage test.

We got 3rd
We scored a 63.8%. I thought the scores comments were correct, even though I was riding for different results then the test required. I didn't like that our harmony score was 6.5 :( We have always gotten 7s or better for that. After you ride everyone asks how you did and how you felt it went. And I was trying to be positive and only citing the ugly stretchy circle was left to be desired. But honestly, I thought it went worse then I was letting on. 

But realistically, we don't work on any of movements and I definitely do as little flatwork as when I can (esp in trot). So it's probably good that at least we aren't any worse then we were last year. 

That night, after watching the video a few times, I felt better and better of how it went and what it looked like. Very typical of me. Riding it feels like a disaster because I tick off all the mistakes. But watching it, most of the mistakes don't translate into visual errors (to my untrained eye). So I always feel better after I watch videos. I should probably just do instant replays after I ride so I can more smiley to those around me.

Here's my test if you have 4:34min of time to kill.

Pretty sure I'm gonna hang up my dressage stirrups. I get way too picky about being perfect. At this point, it isn't good for my stress and my horse and I would rather be jumping anyway. :)